30 June – China (Sichuan) –
~190 miles – 314 miles
Well… what a day.
A long long day.
At breakfast, we discover that we can’t take the intended route, as there’s been a landslide. So, there’s some hurried perusing of maps… but with no confirmed alternate route at leaving time.
We start riding, and get to a point where the decision needs to be made… and wait there for a while, watching as other traffic, mostly trucks, start to pile up at all three roads leading to this central little village.
Eventually, we think we have a plan – and get back on the bikes… initially picking our way through all the trucks which have filled both lanes of the chosen road. Get free of that, and some nice riding for a while, albeit all as a big group, not really knowing where we’re going yet. First attempt at an alternative route… dwindles down to “a goat track along the edge of a cliff”. Which – to be honest – sounded like a bit of fun, but also – the main recurring nightmare I had leading up to this trip… just a slight mistake on such a road, and the bike (maybe me) falling off a cliff. It’s decided to find another way.
“Another way” is found – with about an hour of following the van, as the roads involved don’t appear on any of our GPS systems. And then… “it’s simple – just follow this road for another 40 miles or so, then follow the G108 up to Ya’an – where we’re back on the official/documented route… but make sure to not get on the Expressway G5”.
So, a spot of lunch, and then everybody heads off in their own time.
And yes – it was that simple (excluding some extended roadworks)… until Ya’an. I’d been starting to feel a little cocky, leading a couple of riders with my flawless navigation – wondering why anybody had thought this little detour had been so difficult… until Ya’an, where the directions/route-notes to get out of town, on to the non-expressway road – led to a no-longer-existent road. Quite a lot of time was spent trying to find alternative ways out of town in the right direction, with no luck – until eventually a local pulled up, and offered to guide us to the correct road… successfully.
Thank you random local.
Then – the notes on how to follow that road also seemed to refer to things/intersections/roads which no longer existed, or had been moved… but I eventually got to the city at Mount Emie/Emie-Shan, where we’re staying. And for one final time – 2 miles from the hotel – I follow a road to a dead-end, where there’s a big blue fence blocking me from where I want to go… once again I’m looking over a barrier – to see the exact road I want to be on just 100m away. Aaarrgh.
But, find another way, and finally pull into the hotel – 12 hours after leaving in the morning – thinking I must be the last rider in… but no, there’s still 3 out, who do eventually pull in, about two hours later.
Other than the rather large difference in expected riding time… the ride was nice. Went through some extended sections of metres-high bamboo on each side of the road, once again reminding one of certain Kung-Fu movies, and imagining “Wire Fu” scenes playing out on either side and over me.
And, road-signs which seemed to be saying “Giant Pandas live here – so don’t cut down or dig up the bamboo”. Didn’t see any pandas, but the wildlife here at Emie-Shan seems prolific, in the short time I’ve been here. One toad jumping over my feet as I walked from the bike, and then discovered a 4-inch long stick(/branch?)-insect which somehow attached itself to my back/shoulder.
I don’t seem to have taken a single photo today, although I think I got some video footage… instead, here’s a photo from many weeks ago, which I only recently discovered – my riding through the deepest stretch of sand we encountered in the Wukhan Valley…